Monday, November 28, 2011

Honey-Oat Sandwich Bread

You know how you're never supposed to go to the grocery store when you're hungry? Well, that's probably because you'll come away with three kinds of fancy cheese.  :)  And since I don't like to eat fancy cheese with boring supermarket sandwich bread, I definitely had to make some homemade bread to go along with it.  I found this one in my list of bookmarks and decided it was just the ticket. The bread is soft in texture and has good flavor from the honey and butter without being overly sweet.  My favorite way to eat it was spread with the fig-goat cheese spread that I bought on my cheese splurge, and then topped with lightly dressed arugula (tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil).

Honey-Oat Sandwich Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2-1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt
4 T melted butter
3 T honey
1 cup lukewarm water (more as needed)

1. Whisk together the flours, oats, yeast, and salt.  Stir in the butter, honey, and water until combined.  Cover and let sit 20 minutes for the oats to absorb some of the moisture.
2. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding more water if the mixture seems too dry.
3. Cover and let rise 60-90 minutes (the dough may not double but should be noticeably risen).  Punch down, shape into a loaf, and place in a greased loaf pan.
4. Cover and let rise another 60-90 minutes.  Toward the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Bake the loaf 30-35 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  While the bread is still hot, rub with butter.  Let cool before cutting into the loaf.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yogurt Cake with Asian Pears and Cinnamon Swirl

This is a quick and delicious coffee cake that's easy to mix up and even easier to eat!  Although the original recipe called for apples, I went with Asian pears since that was what I had on hand - they cooked up similarly to apples but definitely added a unique and tasty flavor to the cake.  Since I was using Asian pears, I subbed in cardamom for some of the cinnamon - it's one of my favorite spices, and I think it combines beautifully with pears.  There's no better way to start the morning than with a coffee cake full of pears and warm spices!

Yogurt Cake with Asian Pears and Cinnamon Swirl (adapted from the kitchn, original recipe here)
Makes one 8-inch square cake

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2 percent)
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 Asian pears, peeled and coarsely chopped
1-1/4 cup all purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
Scant 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Generous grate of fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 T unsalted butter, very soft

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Whisk together the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, sugar, egg, yolk, and vanilla.  Add the chopped pears and stir to combine..
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Stir into the wet ingredients until just combined.
4. Stir together the cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter until well combined in a small bowl.
5. Scrape about half the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Using your fingers, sprinkle about half the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter.  Top with remaining batter and remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.
6. Bake about 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Swiss Chard Gratin

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving!  If you need to detox a bit today, this veggie dish might be just the ticket - I ate it as a main dish with some bread and butter, though you could certainly also serve it in smaller portions as a side.

This was a great dinner put together with food from the farmer's market.  I came across this recipe on an afternoon when I had almost no real food in the house but just didn't feel like running out to the grocery.  Luckily it was a Tuesday, when there's a farmer's market about 2 blocks from my house! As you might expect from an Alice Waters recipe, this step has quite a few steps - making breadcrumbs from fresh bread and then toasting them with oil in the oven, blanching the chard and then adding it to a white sauce that's been made separately, and then finally layering everything in a baking dish.  However, the results are very tasty - the greens taste rich and flavorful without a ton of added fat and no added meat (though I'm sure some crispy bacon would be excellent here), and the breadcrumb topping is so much crispier and yummier than sprinkling over pre-made breadcrumbs or even panko.

Also - I'm now on Google+!  Feel free to check the page out here and follow me if you like.

Swiss Chard Gratin (adapted from the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)
Serves 2 as a main or 3-4 as a side

Butter (a few tablespoons all together)
1 large bunch Swiss chard
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (grind up good-quality, crustless bread in the blender or food processor)
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 tsp flour
1/2 cup milk (I used non-fat)
Splash of cream (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a smallish baking dish.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Wash and stem the chard.  Save half the stems and thinly sliced them, and cut all of the leaves into large pieces.
3. Add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water and stir to dissolve.  Add the chard stems and cook 2 minutes.  Add the leaves to the pot and cook for 3 more minutes.  Drain and allow to cool. Gently squeeze out the extra liquid and set aside.
4.  Toss the breadcrumbs with the olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet.  Toast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  When you remove the breadcrumbs, leave the oven on.
5. Meanwhile, melt 1-1/2 T butter in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chard and season with salt.  Cook 3 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over and stir well.  Add the milk and a few grates of nutmeg.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the mixture gets too thick, add a splash of cream or more milk.  The chard should be moist but not floating in liquid.  Taste and add salt if needed.
6. Transfer the chard to the buttered baking dish.  Dot the top with a couple of teaspoons of butter.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the chard, and then sprinkle over a bit of Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie

This pie was my contribution to our (pre-)Thanksgiving dessert table last Saturday, and it was a huge hit.  Although I love traditional pecan pie, it can sometimes be way too sweet.  In this version, the brown sugar and corn syrup are counterbalanced (and the pie is made much more adult) with the addition of bittersweet chocolate and bourbon. The chocolate flavor is much more pronounced than the bourbon - if you're a big fan of bourbon, I think you could probably add more and be very happy.  I found that I had a bit too much filling for my pan (I used a fairly shallow 9-inch pie plate) - if you have excess, just stop pouring when the pie looks like it's getting full and you'll still get a really delicious pie!  I would imagine that you'll be fine if you use a larger/deeper pie plate.  I can definitely recommend this pie for your Thanksgiving table if you're still deciding on desserts for Thursday.  It's full of nutty pecan goodness, sweet syrup-y filling, and rich chocolate.

Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes 1 pie

For the crust:
1-2/3 cup flour
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
5 to7 T ice water

For the filling:
8 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 T bourbon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 cups pecan halves, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the largest pieces are about the size of peas. Drizzle 5 tablespoons of the ice water over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture becomes a moist, crumbly-looking dough that holds together when squeezed in your hand, 4 to 6 pulses. If the dough is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of ice water and test again - be careful not to add too much water or the dough will be very hard to work with.
2. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic.  Chill at least one hour.
3. Cover your work surface with wax paper and place the (unwrapped) dough on the wax paper.  Cover with another sheet of wax paper, and roll out until to about a 13-inch diameter.  Be sure to peel the wax paper off the dough every so often so it doesn't get stuck!
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate.  Trim the edges to about 3/4 inch, fold the remainder under, and crimp with your fingers. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line the piecrust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
6. Bake 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights, and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Bake until the bottom looks dry and the edge are golden, 5-7 more minutes.  Cool the crust.
7. When ready to prepare the filling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place a large, rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack.
8. Make the filling.  Place the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl set on a kitchen towel and add the vanilla.
9. In a 1-quart saucepan, whisk together the sugar, butter, corn syrup, cream, bourbon, and salt.  Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling, 3-5 minutes.  Whisking vigorously and constantly, slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the yolks.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
10. Spread the pecans evenly over the pie crust.  Sprinkle the chocolate over the pecans.  Slowly pour the filling over in a spiral motion to avoid disturbing the pecans and chocolate.
11. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake 35-40 minutes, until the center of the pie is slightly firm and the filling does not wobble.  Let cool at least 1 hour before serving.  Pie is best on the day it is made.

I'm sending this post off to the These Chicks Cooked Link Party.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving 1.0

This year, my housemates and I decided to do a pre-Thanksgiving celebration the weekend before we all go our separate ways for the holidays.  Everyone contributed a couple of dishes and we had an absolutely amazing spread!  Definitely food coma-inducing.  Here's a photo of my overflowing plate:

Cider-Brined Turkey; Mashed Potatoes; Apple, Onion, Sage, and Sour Cream Dressing; Turkey Gravy; Green Bean Casserole; Salad with pears, blue cheese, sprouts, and blackberries; Rolls from La Farine with homemade blackberry jam; Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Happy Girl pickles; Port-Balsamic Cranberry Sauce; and Sour Cherry Chutney.

 Caitlin, Tim, me, and Nina - plus six more not in this photo!

I think my favorite dish was the stuffing; I typically don't love stuffing that's not baked in the turkey, but this one was super moist and flavorful.  My housemate Andrea said the key is to keep basting it while it cooks, either with turkey drippings or with a mixture of vegetable broth and butter to keep it vegetarian.  I'll post about desserts later this week - we had pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and hot spiced apple cider!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving later this week if you celebrate...I'll be enjoying Thanksgiving 2.0 on Thursday with my boyfriend Tim and his housemates!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate Gingerbread Loaf

With the chilly fall weather we've been having lately, I've definitely had a hankering for gingerbread.  And really the only thing that can improve on gingerbread is adding chocolate!  This cake includes chocolate in two ways - cocoa in the batter and chocolate chips stirred in at the end.  Ginger also shows up twice - dried and fresh.  While crystallized ginger is often the norm for cakes like this, I'm not a huge fan of it.  I much prefer fresh ginger, especially as used here - rather than being grated, it's minced so that there are little bursts of intense ginger flavor scattered throughout the cake.  This is an absolutely delicious cake, and the flavors feel very festive to me - they definitely put me in a holiday spirit!

Chocolate Gingerbread Loaf (adapted from Lara Ferroni, original recipe here)
Makes 1 loaf

135 grams (1 cup plus 1 T) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 T natural cocoa powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup molasses
2 T minced fresh ginger
3/4 cup chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a loaf pan (or use the oil spray that includes flour).
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the egg.  Beat in the buttermilk and molasses. The mixture will look curdled; that's ok.
4. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the fresh ginger and chocolate and stir just to incorporate.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lemon Bliss Bundt Cake

Happy National Bundt Day!  The Food Librarian has done a really fun baking project the last few years: I Like Big Bundts! It's a bundt-baking extravaganza, and this year I decided to get involved. I made a super lemony bundt from the Food Librarian's archives, and it was super delicious. The cake itself is moist with a tight crumb - it came out of my somewhat finicky pan easily, which is always a gamble! After the cake comes out of the oven, a tart lemon-sugar glaze is poured over the whole thing, which makes the cake extra moist and adds a lot of great lemon flavor (this was my favorite part of the cake).  My roommates and I loved the cake and devoured it in less than 24 yes, it was definitely a hit! 

Meyer Lemon Bliss Bundt Cake (adapted from the Food Librarian, original recipe here)

For the cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk (non-fat is ok)
Zest of 3 Meyer lemons (a microplane works well)

For the glaze
1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Add the dry ingredients and milk in alternating additions (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour), beating well after each.  Beat in the lemon zest.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out.  Bake 55-65 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
6. While the cake is baking, make the glaze.  Stir together the lemon juice and sugar and set aside.
7. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes all over with a wooden skewer.  Brush the glaze all over with a pastry brush until it has all been used (it will seem like more than the cake can absorb, but just keep going).
8. Let cake cool completely and then remove from pan.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Waffles

I bookmarked this recipe because it sounded too good to pass up, even though I don't have a waffle maker.   Luckily, I found out that one of my boyfriend's housemates has one, so I was able to make this recipe without shelling out for a waffle maker!  These waffles cook up crisp and tasty, but they aren't overly sweet or overly chocolate-y.  So, I recommend adding those elements in the toppings - a good sprinkling of chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate if you're feeling fancy) takes these waffles over the top!  (They'll melt slightly from the warmth of the waffles, without getting your waffle iron messy as might happen if you mixed the chips into the batter).  I like these with salted butter since I'm a sweet-salty fiend, but you can also use regular butter if you prefer.

Chocolate Waffles (adapted from Waffleizer, original recipe here)
Makes 6-8 medium waffles (depending on the size of your waffle maker)

2 large egg yolks
1-1/2 cups milk (low fat is fine)
1-1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 T (1/2 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 large egg whites
2 T brown sugar
Chocolate chips and softened salted butter, to serve

1. Preheat your waffle maker.
2. Whisk together the yolks and the milk.  Whisk in the flour and the cocoa powder.  Whisk in the butter until smooth.
3. Beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.  Gently fold into the cocoa batter.
4. Cook the waffles in the waffle iron.  Serve with chocolate chips and butter.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spaghetti with Steak, Endive, Butternut Squash, and Balsamic Sauce

You know how you're not supposed to make a recipe you've never made before when cooking for a dinner party?  Well, I never follow that rule because I love making new recipes!  And it generally works out just fine, as with this very tasty pasta dish - really, you can almost never go wrong with Mark Bittman's recipes.  I made this pasta for a recent gathering of my book club (this past month's selection was Moneyball).  I had to make a few substitutions because I was shopping at Trader Joe's - as you may know if you shop at this store, they stock lots of really cool and unique items, but the produce section is sometimes pretty lacking.  Since the store didn't have radicchio, I subbed in half the amount of endive and some butternut squash -- not totally sure why I picked the squash, it just seemed like it would go with the other ingredients!

Overall, we all really liked the pasta (served with a big salad on the side), but I would definitely try to find radicchio next time and use the full amount (four pounds) as I felt the dish was lacking a bitter element - the endive definitely got lost among the other flavors.  Radicchio's purple color would also make the dish a bit prettier, which is never a bad thing!  You could also probably add more balsamic vinegar than the recipe calls for as the flavor wasn't super strong.  Although I don't often like whole-wheat pasta, I thought it worked really well here with the other flavors and made the dish feel a bit more hearty.  I loved coming across pieces of steak throughout the pasta - skirt steak worked well here but you could use any inexpensive cut that cooks relatively quickly.

Spaghetti with Steak, Endive, Butternut Squash, and Balsamic Sauce (adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook)
Serves 8

1/4 cup oil
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pound skirt steak
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 pounds Belgian endive, cored and thinly sliced
2 red onions, halved and sliced
2 T minced garlic
1-1/2 pounds whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the steak, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes per side until browned but rare.  Remove from skillet and cover with foil; let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.
3. Add the butternut squash to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened.  Add the radicchio, onion, and garlic to the skillet and lower heat from medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 5 minutes.  Lower heat and cover.
4. Thinly slice the steak, capturing all the drippings.
5. Add the vinegar to the skillet, stir, and let bubble until it thickens slightly but does not evaporate, just a few seconds.  Toss in the pasta, steak and juices, basil, and a generous grind of black pepper, as well as just enough pasta water to keep the mixture moist.  Taste and adjust seasoning, and then serve hot or room temperature.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sausage, Panna, and Scallion Pizza with Cornmeal Olive Oil Crust

Wow, this is one decadent pizza, but it is so good!  Notice the "panna" in the title - sounds sort of innocent, maybe like it's a kind of cheese?  At least that's what I thought when I read the recipe title.  Actually though, it's unsweetened whipped cream, which is used on this pizza instead of a sauce!  Sounds crazy, but it makes for a super rich and delicious base for the other toppings (and actually you're not using an insane amount, just 1/4 cup per pizza).  The cream base is topped with sauteed fennel sausage, thinly shaved fennel, scallions, and fresh mozzarella - use a light hand with toppings as this is a thin crust pizza and you don't want to weigh it down.  Plus, everything is so rich that you don't want the pizza to be overwhelming!

All these amazing toppings are scattered on top of a no-knead pizza crust with cornmeal and olive oil.  I honestly couldn't really taste the cornmeal, but it did make for a really lovely yellow color.  This dough was easy to put together, and you can keep it in the fridge for a few days before using.  It was somewhat more difficult to stretch into thin crust pizza than some other crusts I have tried, probably because the combination of all-purpose flour and cornmeal isn't super high in gluten (it was also a fairly moist dough). However, once I got it stretched it crisped up really nicely and was a great base for the toppings.  This crust is definitely best the night it's cooked as it becomes somewhat soggy hanging out in the fridge overnight - although you can reheat it in a 500 degree oven and get fairly good results.  You can freeze the extra unbaked dough if you like -- as with other dough I've frozen, it's a little less elastic once it comes out of the freezer (and so harder to stretch), but still perfectly delicious!

Sausage, Panna, and Scallion Pizza with Cornmeal Olive Oil Crust (adapted from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day and the The Mozza Cookbook)
Serves 2-3
Makes enough crust for four thin crust pizzas and toppings for two pizzas (double the toppings if you want to make four pizzas, or save two portions of dough for later)

For the cornmeal olive oil dough
11 ounces lukewarm water
1-1/2 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1-1/2 T sugar
3 ounces olive oil
15 ounces all-purpose flour
2 ounces yellow cornmeal

For the toppings
8 ounces sausage, preferably with fennel
2 T good-quality olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
Thinly sliced/shaved fennel (about half of a small bulb)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin rounds
4 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
Finely chopped fennel fronds

1. Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined (or stir together in a large bowl).  There is no need to knead.
2. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the dough has risen and then collapsed.
3. Stick the dough in the fridge for up to ten days in a covered but not airtight container.
4.  Prepare the toppings: saute the sausage in a non-stick pan until browned and cooked through, and get everything sliced and ready.
5. When ready to cook the pizza, preheat the oven to as hot as it will go.  Shape the dough into four half-pound (8-ounce) balls.  You can pop some of the dough back in the fridge or freeze some (in an airtight container, for up to 3 weeks) at this point if you like, or shape as many as you like into pizzas.  The amounts listed for toppings above are for two pizzas.  For each pizza you want to cook immediately, stretch into a 12-inch round and place on a pizza pan (or you can use a pizza peel/pizza stone if you're fancy like that!).
6. Brush 1 T olive oil on the rim of the crust and sprinkle the entire thing with salt.  Spoon half the cream in the center, and spread evenly, leaving a rim around the edges.  Scatter with half the shaved fennel.  Scatter half the sausage over the pizza, and top with half the mozzarella.  Scatter on half the scallions.
7. Place the pizza in the oven and bake until the crust is nicely browned on the bottom.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fennel fronds.

I'm sending this post off to These Chicks Cooked!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

This month, my partner for the Secret Recipe Club was Isabelle of Crumb Blog.  I definitely had a hard time picking which of her delicious recipes I was going to try, but eventually I decided on this fantastic baked pasta dish. It really does mimic the flavors of Eggplant Parmesan, but it's far easier to make - no breading or frying in sight!  A richly flavored eggplant and tomato sauce is stirred together with parboiled pasta and then layered under gooey fresh mozzarella and nutty Parmesan cheese.  All the flavors combine perfectly to create a satisfying and filling pasta dish that's perfect for chilly fall weather.  The only change I might make would be to make this in a deeper dish next time as some of the edges didn't quite get covered in sauce.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake (adapted from Crumb Blog, original recipe here)
Serves 2-4

1/2 medium globe eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 scant tsp salt
Vegetable oil, for the pan
1 small onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound pasta
14-ounce can of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped, with juices
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
Generous pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
About 1/3-pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the eggplant in a collander and sprinkle with the salt.  Toss, and let sit 20 minutes to drain.
2. Put water on to boil (for the pasta).  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and oil a 2-quart baking pan
3. Heat some oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown.
4. Rinse off the eggplant under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.  Add to the onion and garlic, adding more oil if necessary, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-12 minutes or until softened.
5. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the red wine, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes to the eggplant mixture.  Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just shy of al dente (about 6-7 minutes) and drain.
7. Taste the sauce and add salt and/or pepper as needed.  Add the pasta and stir to combine well.  Pour into the prepared baking dish.
8. Distribute the sliced mozzarella cheese evenly over the pasta, and then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Killer Scalloped Sweet and White Potatoes in Smoky Hot Sauce

I've totally fallen in love with this easy and healthy version of scalloped potatoes.  These definitely don't taste like the creamy, cheesy scalloped potatoes that often appear on holiday tables, and while I do love that version, these are a nice change of pace (and much healthier to boot).  The cream is replaced with a spicy chipotle-tomato sauce, and half the white potatoes are subbed with sweet potatoes.  I added a bit of goat cheese sprinkled on top just for fun, which adds a great tangy element to the dish.  Even without all the cream and cheese, this is still great comfort food for cold weather.  These potatoes are great as a main dish alongside a big salad or with some crusty bread, or you can serve it in smaller portions as a side along with something like roast chicken.

Killer Scalloped Sweet and White Potatoes in Smoky Hot Sauce (adapted from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven)
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes
Generous pinch kosher salt
1/2 tsp minced canned chipotle chiles (more to taste)
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 ounces soft goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (or as hot as it will get), and move the oven rack to the top slot.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut each tomato in half and scoop out the seeds.  Oil the baking sheet and place the tomatoes upside down on the sheet.
3. Roast the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, until the skins are browned and blistered and the tomatoes are very soft.  Remove from the oven.
4. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and move the rack back to the middle level. Oil a 1 to 1.25 quart baking dish.
5. Let the tomatoes cool slightly, then slip off the skins.  Combine the tomatoes, a generous pinch of salt, and the chipotle chiles in a blender and blend until smooth.  An immersion blender also works well.
6. Stir the milk, 1/2 tsp salt, and garlic into the hot sauce until combined.  Toss the potatoes together in another bowl.
7. Layer one third of the potatoes into the baking dish.  Cover with a third of the sauce. Repeat with another layer of potatoes and sauce.  Dot the goat cheese all over the potatoes.  Finish with a final layer of potatoes and sauce.  Press down slightly with a rubber spatula and make sure the potatoes are completely covered in sauce.
8. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and remove the foil from the potatoes.  Bake for another 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket with Fennel and Carrots

I promised myself that I would use my slow cooker more often this this fall, and this recipe was a great way to kick things off.  The beef is super tender with fantastic flavor, and the sauce is rich and warm.  The fennel and carrots cook the whole time the beef is cooking, so they do get very soft.  I thought that was nice in this dish, but if you want the veggies to have more of a bite, you could add them later or even cook them separately.  I might double the carrots next time as there didn't seem to be quite enough to me.  I served the brisket over extra creamy potato puree - Yukon golds mashed with lots of butter and milk.  I thought this was the perfect accompaniment to the beef and veggies, but you could also serve this with noodles or something else on the side -- I ate some of the leftovers over a baked sweet potato, which was really tasty. 

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket with Fennel and Carrots (adapted from Haute Apple Pie, original recipe here)

Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
2 pounds beef brisket
3 medium cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
6 ounces lager (about half a bottle)
1 large bulb fennel, cut into large pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T spicy brown mustard
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp paprika
Beef or chicken broth

1. Heat a few good glugs of vegetable oil a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper.
2. Brown the brisket on all sides in the oil.  Remove from the pan and place in the slow cooker.
3. Add the garlic to the oil and saute for a minute until softened  Add the lager and simmer for about 1 minute.  Pour over the beef.
4. Place the pieces of fennel and carrot around the meat.
5. Whisk together the brown sugar, tomato paste, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and paprika.  Pour over the brisket.  Add broth as needed so that the liquid comes most of the way up the meet (not necessary for it to be totally submerged).
6. Cook on low for 8 hours, flipping the meat halfway through.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Honey-Walnut Bread with Dates and Raisins and Giveaway Winner

I love this quick bread - it tastes absolutely perfect for fall with honey, warm spices, walnuts, and dried fruits.  It will make your kitchen smell so good!  The bread is moist and tender - I think using cake flour really helps with this, although it would probably also be great with all-purpose flour if that's all you have.  The one issue I had with the bread was that all the dried fruit sank to the bottom!  Although it still tasted great, it wasn't quite as attractive - next time I'd toss the fruit with a bit of flour before adding it to the batter, which I think would help with this problem.

I'm also excited to announce that the winner of my Eat Your Books giveaway is Sara of noodle of the day.

In other giveaway news, I wanted to give a huge shout-out to Marla of Family Fresh Cooking - I won an Amazon gift certificate on her blog and my two shiny new cookbooks just arrived! I picked out Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day and Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch.  They have both been giving me a ton of new recipe ideas, so you can expect to see them popping up here in the future!  Thanks, Marla!

Honey-Walnut Bread with Dates and Raisins (adapted from The Shiksa Blog, original recipe here)
Makes 1 loaf cake

1/2 cup whole dates (about 4 large dates)
1/2 cup raisins
Boiling water
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with oil.
2. Place the dates and raisins in a bowl and pour the boiling water over.  Set aside while preparing the cake.
3. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl.  Set aside.
4. Whisk together the oil, brown sugar, honey, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until completely combined.
5. Drain the dates and raisins.  Pit and coarsely chop the dates.
6. Add the raisins, chopped dates, and walnuts to the flour mixture and toss.  Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and gently fold together with a rubber spatula until just combined.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place on a larger baking sheet, and then pop in the oven.  Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Exchange sponsored by Spice Islands.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Birthday Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

This year for my birthday Tim made me delicious birthday cupcakes flavored with Earl Grey tea.  The cakes were really yummy with a fluffy texture and a subtle Earl Grey flavor.  If you are a big tea fan, you could probably get away with adding more tea (maybe one or two extra tea bags), although the cupcakes were excellent as is.  The tea really made the cupcakes pretty as they ended up flecked all throughout - almost looked like poppyseed cakes!  The lemon frosting paired perfectly with the cupcakes, adding a sweet-tart element.  The lemon flavor was definitely stronger than the tea flavor though, so keep that in mind when deciding how much tea to add to the cupcakes.  I love lemon and tea flavors together, and so these cupcakes were perfect for me!  Thank you, Tim!

Don't forget - today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a lifetime membership to Eat Your Books!  You have until midnight Pacific time to get your entries in!

Birthday Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream (adapted from Desert Candy, original recipe here)
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups self-rising flour
2 bags (2 T) earl grey tea (removed from tea bags)
1 cup milk

For the frosting:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar, sifted
Zest of 1 lemon
3 T lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and fill two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Beat the butter until creamy.  Add the sugar and cream with the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
3. Beat in half the flour along with the tea leaves.  Beat in the milk, and then the flour, stirring until just combined.
4. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
5. Cool the cupcakes completely, and then make the frosting. Beat all the frosting ingredients together until smooth.  Frost the cupcakes and top with a candle!